A trio of members of parliament representing communities in the Okanagan and Shuswap want to see more federal resources devoted to preventing the spread of invasive species into B.C. waterways.
A statement from Mel Arnold representing the North Okanagan and Shuswap, Dan Albas who is the MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and Tracy Gray who represents Kelowna and Lake country suggested that Western Canada isn’t getting its fair share of invasive species protection funds.
“The vast majority of federal resources allotted for preventing or eradicating aquatic invasive species (AIS), including zebra and quagga mussels (ZQM), do not make it past the Great Lakes giving Western Canada, including British Columbia, little access to federal supports,” read the statement.
The MPs allege that the federal government is ignoring the threat the aquatic invasive species pose to ecosystems and the economy in B.C. They go on to state that as COVID-19 travel restrictions increase more boats and visitors are coming to the region possibly carrying the invasive mussels or other species.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service maintains watercraft inspection stations near provincial boundaries throughout the summer months where boats entering the province are required to stop and be checked for evidence of invasive species. If necessary they are then decontaminated. As of the summer of 2019, the only inspection station on Highway 1 at Golden was open 24 hours a day. The other 11 stations along the province’s eastern and southern borders were open either 10 hours a day or from dawn until dusk.
In hopes of improving compliance with rules aimed at stopping the spread of invasive species, the Okanagan and Shuswap MPs sent a letter to Bernadette Jordan the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard asking that efforts to promote domestic tourism in Canada also remind travellers of their responsibility to control the spread of invasives.
Their letter-writing campaign also contacted the Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair to ask that the Canada Border Services Agency ensure that watercraft crossing into Canada from the United States under the ‘Alaska Loophole’ be treated as though it would be used in Canadian waters. The letter about border procedures noted that the state of Montana’s aquatic invasive detection program had noticed a sharp increase in the number of invasive mussel-fouled boats which they inspected, meaning the mussels could be spreading west on both sides of the national border.